Thirty eight members of the Canora Travel Club, including about 20 Canora Composite School students, will be spending the Easter break in Europe.
Brent Castle, the former CCS principal who has been on leave for a couple years, will be the main leader for this tour. He had arranged many high school tours over the years through the Education First (EF) travel organization and he didn’t want to miss this one.
Castle said he has been on leave to assist family members with the farm near Swift Current. He intends to return to CCS for the next school year.
Travel is very important for students to experience as it gives depth to their education that is not available any other way, he said. The focus of EF is to make history come alive and the participants get so much more out of the experience just by knowing some basic history of the places they visit.
Because these travel experiences really have nothing to do with school, they are also available to virtually anyone. Over the years, many adults have participated and a few are now regulars. Having so many adults involved also assures that the students are properly chaperoned, Castle said.
Having Cal Tomilin (and his wife Betty) join again is very beneficial, Castle said. Tomilin is a well-liked history teacher who always proves to be an excellent resource.
Many of the adults are related in some way with the students, he said. They can be parents, aunts or uncles, but there are a select few who just enjoy travelling. From Castle’s perspective, he likes to take a leaders’ tour the year before the main group travels. Leaders from around the world take much the same tour, but they are given the opportunity to decide which aspects of the itinerary will need more or less time.
It was during the leaders’ tour last year that Castle found himself being held virtually upside down along the side of the Blarney Castle so that he could participate in the ritual of kissing the “Blarney Stone” for good luck.
For Castle, this tour will also be special because his daughter, Emma, will be part of the tour group. Before she graduated from Canora Composite School, she had been on an EF Tour, but this time she is going as an adult and as a chaperone. She is a teacher in Langenburg.
The schedule for the tour begins with gathering as the Canora Composite School on March 25 (Good Friday) and taking a bus to Regina from where their jet will leave a 3 a.m. The flight will be from Regina to Toronto to Ireland.
In the past, when Castle was the principal, it was possible to organize many fundraisers to pay for the little extras along the way. The cost per participant remained the same, regardless of the fundraising. For this trip, each participant pays $4,000 and that essentially covers all expenses, including: transportation, hotels and two meals a day.
Castle likes to keep in contact with the participants during the weeks prior to travelling. He does a lot of email communication and on March 3, he plans to have an evening meeting at CCS to discuss the travel plans.
As the travel date gets closer, participants seem to have more specific questions about what they will be seeing, he said. Recently there have been questions about the London Eye, the large ferris wheel which has become a symbol of London, or they want to know more about the area of London where Jack the Ripper did his dastardly deeds. The travel experience is always better when everyone in the group knows each other and knows what will be of interest to each other.
By allowing more adults in the Canora tour group, it is actually beneficial to the tour experience, Castle said. It is possible to take an EF tour with very few students, but the EF organizers will then group the Canora travelers with small groups from anywhere else in North America. There is a benefit to meeting new people and learning more about their communities and culture, but the main purpose of these travel experiences is to learn about the destination countries.
It is hard to put into perspective how important these first-time travel experiences are to the students, but Castle says when he meets a former student who graduated 10 years ago, one of the first subjects to reminisce about is a Euro Trip. “They never forget it.”